Comet and asteroid hunter Carolyn Shoemaker dies at 92

She received an MA in History and Political Science from Chico State University (now known as California State University, Chico). She m...


She received an MA in History and Political Science from Chico State University (now known as California State University, Chico). She met Eugene Shoemaker at her brother’s wedding, where Dr Shoemaker, her brother’s former roommate at college, was a witness. They married a year later, in 1951.

Ms Shoemaker briefly worked as a teacher after college, but by the time she got married she had quit working. She accompanied her husband on field trips, prepared meals for him and his colleagues, and raised the family’s three children.

Today, professional astronomers use remote-controlled telescopes and digital detection software. They tend not to spend sleepless nights in remote mountainous areas, guiding telescopes through the night sky and developing films in their own darkrooms, like shoemakers did. Yet scientists still depend on the methods Ms. Shoemaker perfected.

“She and her colleagues laid the groundwork for how to identify what we would call minor bodies in our solar system, such as comets and asteroids,” said Dr Wiseman. “We still use the technique of looking for the relatively fast transverse motions of comets and asteroids in our own solar system relative to the slower or more fixed position of the stars.”

In addition to Ms. Salazar, Ms. Shoemaker is survived by another daughter, Christine Abanto; one son, Patrick; three grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.

In 1997, she and Dr Shoemaker were on a trip to Australia to investigate craters when, driving on a remote backcountry road, they took a turn and collided with an oncoming car. Ms. Shoemaker broke her rotator cuff and fractured her rib and wrist. Dr Shoemaker died instantly.

After her husband’s death, Mrs. Shoemaker devoted herself to completing the research they had started.

“Without Gene, I would never have known the excitement of planetary science,” she writes in her autobiographical essay. “Without me,” he often said, “his search for asteroids and comets, and then the work of creating Australian craters, would never have been attempted. Together we could do more than each of us alone.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Comet and asteroid hunter Carolyn Shoemaker dies at 92
Comet and asteroid hunter Carolyn Shoemaker dies at 92
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